Britain will not automatically deport European Union citizens who have not applied for the right to remain in the country after Brexit, European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt has said.
Speaking after a meeting with the Brexit secretary, Steve Barclay, on Thursday night, Guy Verhofstadt said he had raised a number of concerns regarding the status of EU citizens in the UK after it leaves the bloc.
"What will happen for those people even after the grace period? Well, there will be no automatic deportation," Verhofstadt told BBC Radio. "After the grace period, they will have a possibility to apply, giving the grounds why it was not possible to do it within the normal procedures."
There will be a generation, the young generation coming in the coming decades, who will say later: 'We want to go back'
Prime minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson has also confirmed there will be no automatic deportation.
The application process for EU citizens to obtain settled status opened at the end of March 2019. It will close, following the six-month grace period, on 30 June 2021.
As of the end of last year, more than 2.7 million of the estimated 3.5 million EU nationals living in Britain had applied. Earlier this week the EU expressed concerns over "conflicting signals" on what would happen to those who fail to do so in time.
The chairman of the EU's Brexit Steering Group, said he had hopes that the UK would one day rejoin Europe. "I think that will happen, yes, (but) it's difficult to say when," Verhofstadt told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:
"There will be a generation, the young generation coming in the coming decades, who will say later, 'We want to go back'.
"It will happen. Maybe you will not see it in my life, but it will happen."
In the meantime, Brussels is alarmed by the UK's pledge to diverge from EU rules after Brexit, with officials warning of an economically damaging split at the end of this year.
During a weekend interview with the FT, Chancellor Sajid Javid warned businesses there will be a decisive break, saying "we will not be a rule-taker". One EU official said: "The main conclusion for the real economy is: prepare for the worst. Anything agreed will be a bonus."
A diplomat added: "In the end it is all rather simple: If Britain wants to diverge from EU rules, it will diverge. "Such an approach would obviously lead to new trade hurdles between Britain and the EU and in consequence less trade, less investments, less jobs."
EU chiefs have repeatedly attacked Boris Johnson's pledge to leave Brussels' rules and regulations at the end of the transition.